Concussions and Mild Brain Injury in Children

I spent yesterday at a very interesting conference about mild brain injury and post-concussion syndrome. It was led by Dr. Gerard Gioia, a pediatric neuropsychologist and expert in the field of concussions in children. There is far too much information to present here, but I wanted to offer some helpful information so I’ve distilled everything down to the Top 5 things I learned at the conference, as well as a few links with further resources.

Top 5 things I learned at the conference:

  1. Studies with rats show that the brain pathology following a concussion is not related to physical injury, but rather a neurometabolic reaction within brain cells that leads to an overall “energy crisis.” (for a detailed description of the cellular processes, see the Pathophysiology section of the Wikipedia entry on concussions).
  2. Most traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are not the result of sports-related injuries (for children aged 0-14, falls cause half of all TBIs annually; see pie chart below).
  3. The time interval between injuries is critical for preventing long term (cumulative) effects. If you do not allow a child sufficient time to fully recover from a mild concussion incident, if the child has another mild concussion during the healing period, the synergistic effect of both injuries is equal to one large injury.
  4. Most concussions do not result in loss of consciousness.
  5. A direct hit to the head isn’t the only way to cause a concussion. You can also get a concussion if your head is jolted (jerked) suddenly as a result of a hard blow to the body.

source: Wikipedia commons

Additional Links:

- The main resource for information is the concussion and traumatic brain injury section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Much of Dr. Gioia’s work has been funded by the CDC, and that is where you will find a host of resources, both on- and offline. There are download-able .pdfs for school personnel, clipboard magnets for coaches, a variety of publications available for order, and even a page devoted to social media (Twitter, podcasts, widgets, etc.).

- Dr. Gioia also helped develop an iPhone/iPad app called Concussion Recognition & Response. It walks you through an injury and helps coaches and parents determine if a child has suffered a possible concussion. A lot of information is embedded in the app, and at the end of the assessment you can easily email the results in the form of a summary sheet.

Unrelated to the conference, here is an informative video made by a doctor/dad about child concussions. I especially like the way Dr. Evans describes symptoms and post-concussion protocol, as well as the way he addresses children directly and offers them encouragement during a potentially frustrating time.